Bracing ourselves for serious economic dislocation
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - May 6, 2020 - 12:00am

There is no telling at all, that everything will be back to normal after May 15. The summer of pains and anxieties shall turn into a winter of discontent. Companies are closing, and millions of people are losing their jobs. There will be hunger and social and economic dislocations. And the worst is yet to come.

Hardest hit is the tourism industry. Hotels, travel agencies, airlines, shipping companies, and land transport including bus firms, taxi companies and even jeepney and tricycle operators are losing money beyond our wildest imagination. According to the World Tourism Organization, the total GDP losses in just less than two months are already reaching three trillion US dollars. More than 70 million workers are losing their jobs worldwide. And so, these people are bound to lose their only source of livelihood. Termination of employment lay-offs, retrenchments, redundancies and all sorts of management options are going to be implemented. The consequences can be disastrous and extremely frightening.

The manufacturing sectors have also suffered for lack of demand and also lack of capacity to produce. Oil companies have reduced their prices to rock bottom levels. Banks cannot collect from creditors, and thus bad debts may cause a serious impact on the viability of the capital markets. Even power companies and water firms cannot collect from consumers who have underwent almost 60 days of “no work, no pay”. Only the consumer companies are making money because people cannot stop eating and consuming products during the quarantine. But all other sectors are suffering and will be led to fire workers sans separation pay for lack of means to pay.

I predict that there shall be an upsurge of serious labor problems and the DOLE and NLRC will be overwhelmed with cases of illegal dismissals, money claims, unfair labor practices, and even strikes and lockouts. In other words, there will be chaos and confusion, there will be a rise in thefts, robberies, and kidnapping for ransom. The government forces will be fighting from many fronts, including criminals, ideological rebels, and plain religious and ideological terrorists, not to forget the coronavirus and its many socio-economic consequences and complications.

I shudder at the thought of riots in the streets, robbing, and ransacking of stores and warehouses, and burning of factories and other establishments. These are neither impossible nor improbable scenarios. When people are jobless, homeless and hopeless, they can take the law into their own hands, for they have nothing to lose but their hunger and want. Rich people and powerful businessmen and politicians cannot be sure of their safety and security. They may be kidnapped and robbed and their mansions burned by mobs and terror groups. Then the president may be compelled to declare martial law, and we will all lose our freedom.

I hope I am wrong and that my pessimism shall turn out to be an ugly nightmare. But if this COVID pandemic shall continue unabated till the third quarter of the year, I cannot assure you that my being a prophet of doom and gloom will not come true. Only God can save the Philippines and have mercy on the Filipinos.

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